Governor Ricardo Rossello was interviewed by Noah Trevor, host of the late-night news satire program The Daily Show. While speaking about the recovery efforts, his desire to “pivot from recovery to rebuilding,” and the value of statehood for Puerto Rico, the governor also spoke clearly about his plans to mobilize the diaspora in the States as a political force.
“We’ve started a movement to organize Puerto Ricans,” he said, pointing out that some 5.6 million individuals of Puerto Rican heritage live in the States. “Because we live in a colonial territory, we don’t have the right to vote for president or congressmen or senators, so we need to create a sort of a proxy effort.”
Puerto Rico’s lack of political power
Asking Puerto Ricans who live in a State to serve as a proxy for the Island would be a way to get around the lack of political power Puerto Rico has as a territory.
Since presidents are elected not by the popular vote but by the States through the Electoral College, voters in Puerto Rico have no say in presidential elections.
As a territory, Puerto Rico also has no senators and no voting members in Congress. Voters in Puerto Rico therefore have no say in the legislative branch of U.S. government, either.
Since neither the executive nor the legislative branch is affected by voters in Puerto Rico, the Island has much less influence on political decisions than the States have. If Rossello is able to persuade voters in the States to vote as a proxy for Puerto Rico, that reality could change.
Rossello has a simple plan for these proxy voters. He wants them to become one-issue voters, voting only for candidates who vote in favor of bills that are good for Puerto Rico. “If you’re a friend to Puerto Rico,” he explained, “we’ll support you, but if you go against the people of Puerto Rico, we’ll vote you out.”
Identifying the elected officials who are friends to Puerto Rico will rely on their voting records. “We’ve heard happy talk all our lives,” Rossello said, describing the visits to Puerto Rico by political leaders which were followed by votes against the interests of the Island.”There is good will,” he acknowledge, but Puerto Rico needs action.
“We need to let all of the elected officials know that there will be Puerto Ricans and friends of Puerto Ricans all over the United States,” the governor said. “If you’re a friend to Puerto Rico, and if you vote and help the policy that’s in the best interest of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, we’ll support you.”
The governor’s organization, which is beginning work in Florida, is called Poder. Initial actions include encouraging voter registration, building email and text lists, and asking for donations.